Whether you consider yourself a casual hiker or an experienced trailblazer, equipment makes all the difference between a good hike and a catastrophic one. The right footwear, clothing, food and drink containers, and accessories can make any ascent or descent feasible, regardless of weather or terrain conditions. Unfortunately, most people who go for a hike underestimate the likelihood of getting into a dangerous situation while out on a hike. You can make your next hike a fun and safe experience by bringing these five essential items:
Proper hydration is very important when it comes to any physically exertive activity, be it swimming or weight lifting. When you’re hiking, your body is sweating, which basically means water is coming out of your body and evaporating. If you do not replenish this water loss, you can become dehydrated. Signs of dehydration may include feeling thirsty, fatigued, and dizzy. The latter sign can be especially dangerous if you are hiking in uneven terrain or near cliffs and crevices. Use a double-wall insulated water bottle to transport your water safely. These bottles are designed to keep water at ideal temperatures for a prolonged period of time.
Before you go on a hike, make sure to check the weather conditions for that particular time. Wind speed and temperature can change very quickly and very drastically when you’re out hiking, and not having the right clothing to protect you from these variable changes can lead to an uncomfortable and slow hike or, worse, even injury. Look for clothing that provides protection against the sun’s UV rays. For footwear, standard hiking shoes and trail runners will suffice for beginner to intermediate-level trails. For rocky and rugged terrains, heavy-duty boots may be a better option.
For day-long hikes, food is a must-have lest you get hungry and cranky on the way back. But with a limited amount of space to put in your backpack, you want to make sure the snacks you bring provide the nutrition your body needs to endure the exhausting trek. Trail mixes are a popular snack option as they provide both energy and flavor. Nuts, seeds, and protein bars are other nutrient-dense snack options that don’t take up much space. Other good ideas include fresh, whole fruits, whole-grain tortillas, and ready-made tuna or chicken salad bowls. Make sure to pack any food items in a Ziploc bag or any air-tight container to prevent any odors from getting out and possibly attracting wild animals during your hike.
First Aid Kit
Regardless of how careful you are, hiking can lead to unexpected scrapes, cuts, and sprains. You should be prepared to manage these common injuries, at least to a point where you can prevent the injury from further worsening. A first-aid kit comes with a variety of tools and supplies that minimize injury and prevent infection. Any basic first-aid kit you can buy from the local pharmacy or grocery store should include plasters in different shapes and sizes, sterile gauze dressings, bandages, safety pins, sterile gloves, and tweezers. You can also supplement your first-aid kit with a bottle of isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, both of which are potent antiseptic compounds that can kill viruses and bacteria.
While a spontaneous bout of hiking may seem like a great idea to reinvigorate the spirits and calm the mind, it’s best to know where exactly you’re going. Not knowing where you are in a hiking trail, where all the turns and exits are, and how much elevation gain to expect, can put you in harm’s way. At the very least, have a physical map in handy, and make sure you know how to read it. Trail maps may also be available at the park’s headquarters or visitor center or sometimes even at the trailhead. If you have the budget, consider investing in a satellite phone.
These are the top five items you’ll want to have with you wherever and whenever you are going for a hike. They can help you endure rough weather conditions, temperature changes, and unforgiving terrain outdoors. That said, equipment is only half of the equation when enjoying hiking. You’ll also want to mentally and physically prepare for the arduous hike by getting enough sleep, nutrition, and warm-up exercises beforehand.
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